ALSO NOTED: Rumor Mill: AstraZeneca a possible Shire suitor; Cardiome baits hook for partners; Vertex shares keep sliding; and

> Shire is suddenly the talk of the town as investors and investment banks publicly mull a match-up with AstraZeneca. Report

> Cardiome has brought in Merrill Lynch to handle the expected partnership offers for Vernakalant. Cardiome is bullish about its prospects after reporting positive interim Phase IIb data for atrial fibrillation. Release

> Vertex shares have been sliding as analysts assess its prospects for the once red-hot hep C drug telaprevir. Report

> Targacept is starting an early-stage trial of TC-5214 for major depression. A spin-off of RJ Reynolds, its researchers specialize in neuronal nicotinic receptors in the brain. Report

> Pharmacopeia is pocketing a $5 million payment from GlaxoSmithKline for completing early research discovery work. Release

> Fewer reps are knocking on doctors' doors these days. A consulting firm that advises most of Big Pharma says Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, and Bristol-Myers Squibb have all culled their herds of reps. And more companies will be following suit soon. Report

> A measure that would force pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers to disclose gifts valued at more than $25 seems to be gathering momentum. Report

> The FDA's Andrew von Eschenbach got peeved during an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute when someone suggested that appointing Janet Woodcock (photo) to her former post at the top of CDER was a return to the "old ways" at the agency. Au contraire, he said. She's "going back as a very, very strong change agent," he responded. Report

And Finally... A UN agency has been alarmed by the 'critical' situation posed by the continued spread of avian flu in Indonesia. Report